Le théâtre et l’illusion

Dramatic illusion refers to the process through which a theatrical performance can tend to reduce, or indeed eliminate, the critical distance between the audience and the fiction presented on stage. This has been especially true between the end of the 18th and the middle of the 20th century, when the stage has generally been frontal, as if enclosed in a box separated from the audience by a fourth, invisible wall.

Yet this conception appears to be inadequate in alternative stage settings that were customary during ancient or early modern periods, and tend to be revived in recent productions : for instance circular or semi-circular stages, or pluri-frontal stages, where the audience are always reminded that they are witnessing a performance. Even in a classically frontal configuration, many playwrights have exploited occasional breaches in dramatic illusion, or engaged with meta-theatrical games in order to reflect upon its meaning.

This course intends to question the nature and status of dramatic illusion in different periods and cultural areas : why and how are the audience’s expectations challenged by the dialectic between building and breaking the illusion ? What are the spectacular and philosophical implications of such a dialectical process ?

Authors include Sophocles, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Calderón, Rotrou, Marivaux, Ibsen, Genet and Lagarce.